Many women over the age of 40 probably recall the frustration of waiting for our high school crush to ask us out. Sure we flirted and let him know we were interested, but the first move was always his to make. No more. As you Moms and Dads with teen and pre-teen daughters may have gathered, one of the benefits of the Women’s Movement has been that young women (and that includes 12 year olds) no longer wait to “ask out” the guys they like. And it’s not necessarily because they want a boyfriend.
As Laura Sessions Stepp explains in Unhooked, a high percentage of high school and college age females say that they aren’t pursuing relationships at all. That’s why many choose hook ups (“…casual sexual encounters between partners who may or may not know each other… [in hooking up] the sex carries no commitment”) as a way to exert power, improve their social status, and avoid the complications of the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone. And if that sounds eerily like motivations formerly attributed to young men on the prowl, well, welcome to the 21st century social scene.
...however far they go sexually neither [partner] should become romantically involved… [hooking up’s] defining characteristic is the ability to unhook from a partner at any time.
—Laura Sessions Stepp
Stepp, and the experts and the young women she followed for a year, seem to concur that all of this hooking up doesn’t seem to make young women feel more powerful or produce a less complicated emotional life. That fact seems to surprise highly capable and academically gifted girls since they often believe that they can control their emotions just as they’ve managed their impressive GPAs and their resume-building activities.
Turns out that the hormone oxytocin which is released in a woman during lactation and causes her to love and bond with her nursing infant, is also released during sexual arousal. So even if girls, their friends, and the whole hooking up culture echo the belief that random hooks up are “no big deal”… their brains and bodies actual work against that assumption.
Every parent of a daughter should read this book. Parents of sons should also read it as well, because, guess what? Guys who hook up are also losing out. How so? When high school and college students base their social life on hooking up instead of actually dating, both genders miss opportunities to learn how to create, maintain, and end real relationships.
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